Essay on Fossil Fuels

“Fossil fuels will be all but consumed by the end of this century, leaving in its wake major climate, economic and social change as well as irrevocable damage to the environment”, (Backstrom, 2002). Hydrogen and fuel cells have the potential to solve several major challenges facing Australia today: dependence on petroleum imports, poor air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions. I am going to argue that Australia is currently failing to take the necessary steps to ensure clean, healthy and sustainable energy for the future. I will be discussing the detrimental impacts of fossil fuels on the environment, economic factors influencing renewable energy investment, and hydrogen as a renewable energy source in the future.

Australia is the second worst polluting nation per person in the world and its refusal, along with the US government’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto protocol has stalled the implementation of the treaty. The Kyoto pact, signed in Japan in 1997, requires industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 8% of the 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The US is credited with producing 36.1% of greenhouse emissions in 1990, yet the world’s biggest polluter had decided to back out of the pact last year, arguing that its economic interests would be threatened. Australia followed suite with Prime Minster John Howard quoted as saying, “For us to ratify the protocol would cost us jobs and damage our industry,” he told parliament. With an economy so reliant on polluting industries it is imperative that research is undertaken to exploit the wide variety of energy efficient technologies readily available, utilize a large potential of cost-effective measures and create greater competition through increased energy efficiency.

“Environmental damage is the biggest threat facing Australia today” (Richards,2003) Fossil fuels have been an integral part of our nations makeup since European settlement. Their abundance and their cost-effectiveness have contributed mightily to a stronger economy. However, they have not extended their beneficence to our environment. A major impact of the use of fossil fuels has been greenhouse emissions with a direct consequence being climate change to which Australia is very vulnerable. An example of the impact of climate changes which have already occurre is the reduction by over 25 per cent of rainfall over south-west Western Australia since 1975, which has already forced a reassessment of the way water is provided to Perth. The warming of the oceans has already had damage impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. The highest average maximum temperatures on record have already delivered the most widespread drought in Australian history over the last two years and brought a natural focus on water as never before. Recent warm years have already been associated with the spread of insect pests, disease and weeds. Clean air impacts on society, which means less pollution and the consequences attached to pollution, like Health issues, erosion issues, and ecological issues. If Australia and its government doesn’t got serious about finding and implementing new technologies we may find ourselves left in the dark ages, in the not so distant future.

“Our economic dependence on oil and the in turn the countries that supplies it is a major weakness”(Richards,2003) Australia and the world’s thirst for oil and other nonrenewable resources have reached new heights. With the Middle East becoming the focus of world attention. Not because of the oppressive governments terrorizing there people, but because of there large oil reserves. With the price of oil rise rapidly economically, environmentally and socially there is a need to find an alternate source of energy. As Middle Eastern countries possess 90% of the oil reserves, they play a fundamental roll in its distribution and price. With many countries at there mercy, including those of the third world. The people who stand to loss the most out of a wide spread use of hydrogen are the oil companies. These companies have a large say in policy formation within the government. Which in turn has made there response to an alternative very lax. Energy systems of the mid- to late-21st century will have to be cleaner and much more efficient, flexible, and reliable than they are today in order to ensure our nation’s energy security and environmental viability. Hydrogen is a potential answer to satisfying many of our energy needs while reducing (and eventually eliminating) carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Hydrogen can be produced from a wide variety of domestic resources using a number of different technologies. Hydrogen can also provide a storage medium for intermittent and seasonal renewable technologies. Hydrogen can be used in combustion processes and fuel cells to provide a broad range of energy services such as lighting, mobility, heating, cooling, and cooking. The first steps toward a clean energy future will build on the established commercial processes and systems in use today. A range of advanced technologies to produce, store, transport, and use hydrogen are already under development, yet Australia has fallen behind the rest of western world in regards to investment and development of these technologies. Here is a list of companies now conducting research into hydrogen as a fuel Exxon, Ford, Chrysler, Westinghouse, Dupont, General Motors, Sandier National Laboratories, Toyota, Texaco, Daimler-Benz, Lawrence Livermore, National Laboratory, Rocky Mountain Institute, Renault, 3M, Honda, Siemens, Nissan Volkswagen, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Flour Daniel, Los Alamos National Laboratory, BMWPSA, Peugeot Citroen Schatz, Energy Research Center Allied Signal, Mazda, Motorola, Volvo, ARCO. Not one of these companies is Australian (owned or run). Widespread use of hydrogen as an energy source in this country could help address concerns about energy security, global climate change, and air quality. Fuel cells are an important enabling technology for the Hydrogen Future and have the potential to revolutionize the way we power the nation.

As other nations of the developed world pure billions into research and commercialization of hydrogen power, we find Australia usually the forerunner in terms of technology starting to fall behind. The United States and Europe already has a trail of hydrogen powered buses and cars underway with many of there major car companies supporting these programs.

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